By Eric Hanna
I have done my best to mention as little as possible in this newsletter, ‘the C-Word’. You know what C-word I am talking about! It is on our lips every day, at home or over the dreaded zoom we discuss case numbers, infection rates and the all to high death rates. We watch the news intently and go over everything again, round and round with neighbours and colleagues. This 3rd lockdown seems more wearisome than the last and even though we have a vaccine and it is indeed rolling out, there is a very definite malaise. I know many people’s mental health is suffering right now and regardless of whether lockdown is lifted in February or March or whenever… 20/21 will leave a scar on many. So, what can we do to lift ourselves? How is the promise of our Lord in John 10:10 to be lived; to have life and life abundantly?
On December 13th 2020 Pope Francis speaking in his Angelus address said:
The journey of joy is not a walk in the park. It takes work to always be joyful.
He went on to exhort us that we should stop walking around like we are at a funeral wake, exclaiming to us:
Christ is Risen! Christ loves you!
Pope Francis’ remedy was that we need to put less of us at the centre and more of Jesus. He went on to explain that this is not about withdrawing from life, because it is only Jesus who gives life meaning; but by living His life we come out of ourselves into the new life. But is this really the answer to our problems, questions of suffering and all the things which we go through as humans?
I have been contemplating this recently and it occurred to me how little ‘answer’ God ever gives or has given. Least in the way most of us would like an answer for. When we have anxiety or worry about a circumstance or issue we often ask God to take it away, heal it, bring a solution to it. The Psalmist’s often called on God, pleading that He save them or the nation of Israel. Did God answer Job? Not how Job or any other human reading that story would of liked Him to! How did God answer the Israelites? He judged the Kingdoms of Israel and allowed them to be carried off into captivity waiting 70 years to free them. (See Jeremiah)
How did The Father answer His only begotten Son in Gethsemane? He did not. From what we can read in the Gospels - no sign or sound came from the Father. This was a far cry from the Baptism of Jesus. No, He lay spread out on the ground sweating blood, with full knowledge of the betrayals that were about to come. Where did Jesus get the strength to carry that Cross? He accepted His Fathers will, that was it. When we think about Gods interactions with the Israelites, the Apostles and the Early Church, we can see God bringing a solution, but often it is when those people have said Yes to God, put Him in the centre and started walking. They lifted themselves like Jesus lifted Himself off the ground to meet Judas and the guards. St Peter is arrested and thrown in Jail, as recorded in Acts. He does not try to ‘get out’. He does not apostatize - he accepts the life God is giving him and then is freed miraculously. Something similar happens to St Paul and Silas.
But sometimes there is no ‘solution’. Our friends die or we loose our jobs and suffer anxiety and poverty. This is when we are in Gethsemane and are struck by the silence of God. What occurs to me is that the silence of God is an invitation to trust Him and go after Him. His silence is not rejection, it is not a judgement - it is Jesus knocking at the door of your heart and waiting to be given admittance. Many of the answers we seek cannot be given until we allow our Lord inside because we would not understand it. What then is this admittance? It is back to Jesus in Gethsemane - ‘not my will but yours’.
To bring it back to joy, Pope Francis says in The Joy of the Gospel:
Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved.
Regardless of our circumstance, God has given us the Spirit in which joy is a fruit and constantly placing Jesus at our centre we allow it to grow. If we then live in the certainty that we are infinitely loved we can take up our Cross and follow Jesus and do so in joy. When Jesus finished praying in Gethsemane, lightening didn’t etch the sky or angels sing as at his birth. It was quiet and silent and yet the most momentous and singularly important event in the span of the Universe was about to begin.
If you are living in silence right now, take heart, Jesus is leading you on.